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The Essential Ingredients You Need to Consider in Curl Creams for High Porosity Hair

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Image of my hair in the background with three curl cream for high porosity hair at the forefront.

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Struggling with thin, brittle, sparse hair led me to discover I had high-porosity strands. This means my hair easily absorbs moisture but loses it just as quickly, leaving it dry and prone to breakage. However, finding the right high-porosity hair care tips turned everything around for me. Armed with targeted products and a dedicated routine, I’ve transformed my fragile curls into healthier hair.

When choosing a curl cream for high porosity hair, keep an eye out for key categories of ingredients. Prioritize products containing hydrating elements, hair-softening agents, styling polymers, natural oils, butter, proteins, and plant extracts. These components work in synergy to address the unique needs of high-porosity hair, offering hydration, manageability, and overall health. We’ll delve into the specifics of each ingredient in the article.

In collaboration with a PhD hair scientist specializing in Cosmetic Chemistry, we’re offering informed recommendations on selecting curl creams specifically designed for high-porosity hair. We’ll also explain why high-porosity hair benefits from specialized curl creams, and present a carefully curated list of the best products.

Curl Cream Key Ingredients

As we search for the ideal curl cream it should include ingredients that help to improve the elasticity of your curls and make them more manageable, while also having a moisturizing, curl-defining, and anti-frizz effect.

Notably, since high porosity hair absorbs moisture quickly, it is critical to remember that this fast absorption leads to a faster loss of moisture if not cared for properly.

Therefore, selecting products with ingredients that will help lock in moisture while delivering definition is essential. With that in mind, let’s delve into the specific ingredients you should be on the lookout for to give your high-porosity curls the nourishment and structure they deserve.

Hydrating Ingredients

Moisture is vital for healthy curly hair without any frizz. Curl creams need to be rich in hydration to combat the problem of dryness, roughness, and frizz.

Formulators often add humectants to products to impart water molecules to dry hair. Glycerin is by far the most widely used and abundant of these hydrating agents.

Unfortunately, this is not the ideal ingredient for high-porosity curly hair. To be effective in hydration, it requires a high dosage of glycerin which can result in an uncomfortable sticky feel and unpleasant heaviness on curls – something that you definitely don’t want if you’re looking to keep your style natural and bouncy.1,2

Propylene glycol is preferred because of its non-sticky feel.3 To achieve a more balanced humectant with an even less sticky texture, propylene glycol and glycerin are blended together.

For hydrating ingredients that offer multi-functional benefits, betaine and 1,3 propanediol are the perfect options. Not only do they both come from natural sources and are environmentally friendly, but their significantly higher water-binding capacity is efficient for dry, rough high porosity hair.4,5,6

Our order of preference for curl creams are:

● Betaine – preferred

● Propanediol – preferred

● Propylene Glycol – less preferred

● Glycerin – best to avoid this if you experience issues with it.

Hair Softening Ingredients

High-porosity needs softening agents to combat surface roughness and make it easy to comb and style.

Cationic surfactants have the remarkable ability to bind hair fiber and align hair cuticles, resulting in a smoother surface that feels soft when touched. Not only this but it reduces fiber-to-fiber friction.

Being cationic, they make them ideal for combatting static charge density, which causes curls to become messy and distorted.7

The top choices are:

Behentrimonium chloride – (22 carbon long chain) Superior conditioning, smoothness, and detangling.8

Behentrimonium methosulfate – (22 carbon long chain) Sister molecule of Behentrimonium chloride.9 

Behenamidopropyl dimethylamine – (22-carbon long chain) excellent remedy to static charge, softness, and slip.10

Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine – (18 carbon long chain), excellent conditioning, detangling, and product texture.11

Styling Polymer

Curl creams are designed to keep your natural curl pattern in place for an extended period. This is done by coating the hair shaft with a film-forming polymer.

These polymers are natural or solely man-made synthetic polymers, created to form a delicate film over the shaft to ensure curls stay in good shape and pattern.12 Several ingredients can be used for this purpose:

Methylcellulose – starch-derived polymer, provides a gentle hold.13

Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) – a very traditional hair styling polymer, however, it gives flakes.14

Polyquaternium-11synthetic film formed for a better style hold and retention.12

Polyquaternium-28 – superior style hold, resistant to humidity.12

Natural Oils and Butter

Managing the dryness associated with high-porosity hair can be a struggle; it’s often extremely rough, dull, and frizzy.

Fortunately, natural oils offer an ideal solution—they provide impeccable lubrication for the hair cuticles without making them look greasy.

Light-textured oils or butter are preferred for better results due to their gentle and soft texture.

Their lubrication not only preserves the protein content of hair fibers against drastic weather fluctuations but also significantly reduces humidity-induced frizz on high-porosity hair.12

Our favorite natural ingredients are:

Shea butter – a rich creamy texture for amazing conditioning, sensorial feel, and shine.15

Mango seed butter – a light soft textured emollient for superior sensorial and conditioning, slip.16

Cocoa butter – a firm textured butter for conditioning, style retention, and curl shape.17

Apricot kernel oil – amazing light oil for conditioning, softness, and shine.18

Argan oil – an amazing recipe for dry, frizzy, and rough hair.19

Baobab oil – unique natural oil for hair and skin care.16

Avocado oil – rich blend of fatty molecules and antioxidants.15,20

Castor oil – super hydrating natural oil with superior fiber conditioning features.18

Jojoba oil – a liquid wax with an amazing sensorial and moisturizing effect.18

Coconut oil – light textured short lauric-rich oil for better oil penetration deep inside hair cortex, shine, and conditioning.21


Did You Know?

A curl-defining formulation generally contains a blend comprising two to four natural oils or butter for better and superior results.

Proteins offer a multitude of advantages to high-porosity hair, such as fiber strengthening and moisturizing properties. Protein treatments are especially beneficial as they replenish the proteins that are lost during chemical treatments, enabling your hair fibers to recover their original mechanical strength.22

The top favorite proteins for high-porosity hair are:

Hydrolyzed wheat protein

● Hydrolyzed keratin

● Wheat amino acids

● Laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin 

● Hydrolyzed vegetable protein PG-propyl silanetriol

Plant Extracts

Plant extracts are highly sought-after due to their multifaceted benefits for the scalp and hair. These bio-extracts hydrate dry scalp and hair, making the overall formulation skin-friendly.23 

Green tea and chamomile extracts are known for their scalp-soothing and relaxing effects.24 Both are rich in polyphenols working as antioxidants against free radical-induced damage to scalp cells and hair fiber.18,25

Sugarcane and apple extracts are popular choices for boosting hair fiber strength, while horsetail and fenugreek extracts can help stimulate the scalp to promote healthy hair growth. Additionally, these activities work to prevent any further hair shedding.18,26,27

My Top 8 Curl Creams Backed by Personal Experience

To offer you a well-rounded perspective, I’ve undertaken the task of personally testing a variety of curl creams, each containing the vital ingredients previously outlined. What follows are my top eight selections, proven to be efficacious in caring for high-porosity hair and containing the beneficial ingredients we’ve highlighted.

For your ease of reference, we have provided the ingredient lists for each product. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that these lists may not be up-to-date. Therefore, we recommend referring to the information on the product bottle for the most accurate and current details.

#1 Cantu Curl Moisturizing Activator Cream

This is a super affordable curl cream that honestly works with most curl types and porosity levels. I like to pair this with the Bounce Curl Light Hold Creme Gel for maximum definition.


Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-10, Stearalkonium Chloride, Stearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Laminaria Cloustoni (Sea Kelp) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Silk Amino Acids, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream
$7.49 $6.48 ($0.54 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/19/2024 02:18 pm GMT

Image of my hair and holding the Cantu curls activator curl cream and Bouncecurl gel in my hands.
These products are the best curly cocktail!

#2 Rizos Curls Defining Cream

This product is great to use on its own. Although any porosity level can use this curl cream, I love how it works with my hair as well. This is a protein-free product so, if your hair needs protein, I would use a protein treatment before using this to get the best turnout.


Water (Aqua/Eau), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut ) Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Trehalose, Glycerin, Fragrance (Parfum), Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Polyurethane-14, AMP Acrylates Copolymer, PVP, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Beeswax, Tamarindus Indica (Tamarind) Fruit Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.

Image of my Rizos curl defining cream. Curl Cream for High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredient.
Rizos Curls Curl Defining Cream
$21.99 ($2.20 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/22/2024 03:16 pm GMT

#3 Curl Dynasty Twisted Definition Twisting Cream

This curl cream is amazing! With just one application, see your curls transform into beautifully defined curls – at least that’s what this product does for me.


Organic Aloe Juice, Castor Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Sunflower Seed Oil, Coconut Fruit Extract, Kakadu Plum Extract, Passion Fruit Extract, Blueberry Fruit Extract, Banana Fruit Extract, Coconut Cream, Sodium Carbomer, Lauric Acid, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Citric Acid, Pro Vitamin B5, Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Fragrance.

My results after using the Curls Dynasty Twisted Definition. Curl Cream for High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.
Always get a great turnout with the Curls Dynasty Twisted Definition!
Curls Dynasty Twisted Definiton
$14.31 $13.36 ($1.67 / Ounce)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Curs Dynasty
03/24/2024 09:20 am GMT

#4 Bounce Curl Avocado & Rose Oil Clump & Define Cream

If your hair struggles to get curl clumps, then this product is for you! This is one of my favorite curl creams ever-ever! Not only does it moisturize hair but it provides a light hold. It’s concentrated so start with a little bit then work your way up.

This product is protein-free so if you used a protein treatment or deep conditioner with proteins, this makes a great follow-up styler.

My results after using the Bounce curl avocado & rose oil clump & define cream. Curl Cream for High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients
Once upon a time, my hair was red 😅


Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Cetrimonium Chloride, VP VA/Copolymer, Sorbitol, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Rosa Cetifolia (Rose) Oil, Crambe Abyssinica Seed oil, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, *Nigella Sativa (Virgin Black Cumin) Oil, Trigonella Foenum-Graecum (Fenugreek) Seed Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) seed oil, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance (Phthalate Free).

*Certified Organic.

Bounce Curl Avocado & Rose Oil Clump & Define Cream
$36.50 ($6.08 / Fl Oz)

Use 'muse' at Bounce Curl's checkout for a discount.

Buy at Amazon Buy at Bounce Curl
03/22/2024 11:34 am GMT

#5 Bouclème Curl Cream

It’s been a minute since I used this product, but I love this product. It provides a soft hold so make sure to follow up with a gel. I would recommend the Bouclème Curl Defining gel (so yummy!) for the best results.

Both products have 96-99% naturally derived ingredients, are plant-powered, and are vegan!


Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, ***Cocos Nucifera (Virgin Coconut) Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Diheptyl Succinate, Bis-(Isostearoyl/Oleoyl Isopropyl) Dimonium Methosulfate, Coco-Caprylate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Distearoylethyl Dimonium Chloride, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Benzyl Alcohol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui) Nut Oil, ***Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, *Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, *Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Red) Peel Oil, *Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, *Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange Sweet) Peel Oil, *Origanum Majorana (Marjoram Sweet) Leaf Oil, *Michelia Alba (Magnolia) Leaf Oil, *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Dehydroacetic Acid, *Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Leaf Oil, Pentylene Glycol, *Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, *Styrax Tonkinensis (Benzoin) Resin Extract, *Cymbopogon Martini (Palmarosa) Leaf Oil, *Michelia Alba (Magnolia) Flower Oil, *Litsea Cubeba (May Chang) Fruit Oil, *Tilia Cordata (Linden) Flower Extract, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Tocopherol, Citric Acid, **Limonene, **Linalool, **Geraniol, **Benzyl Benzoate, **Citral.

*Essential Oil. **Potential Allergen. ***Certified Organic.

Image of my results after using the Boucleme curl cream and gel. Curl Cream for High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients
My results after using the Bouclème curl cream and gel.

#6 Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie

If you have thick curls, then this product is for you! This is another great curl cream that works for low-porosity hair as well. This product helps keep your curl definition intact.

Great to use on its own or with a gel for extra hold.


Water, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Glycerin (Vegetable), Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter* ♥, Polysorbate 60, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Oleth-10, Panthenol, Cetrimonium Chloride, PEG-150 Stearate, Steareth-20, Tocopherol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Beta-Carotene, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Silk Powder, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Flower Extract, Maltodextrin, Triethyl Citrate, Caprylyl Glycol, Benzoic Acid, Fragrance.

*Certified Organic Ingredient ♥ Fair Trade Ingredient

#7 Innersense Quiet Calm Curl Control

This curl cream is for those who need help with controlling frizz and enhancing the texture of your hair. It’s super lightweight and works with all hair types. Due to the thickness of my hair, I found that I needed to use a greater amount of this product to achieve the level of curl definition I desired.

I would recommend this product for wavy to curly textures.


Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Gluconolactone, Calcium Gluconate, Sorbitol Powder, Cetrimonium Chloride, Tocopherol, Potassium Sorbate, Nelumbium Speciosum (Lotus) Flower Oil, Plumeria Alba (Frangipani) Flower Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Seed Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Aspalathus Linearis Leaf Extract, Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Extract, Honey Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Linalool†, Limonene†.

*Certified Organic.†A natural component of essential oils.

#8 Soultanicals Marula-Muru Moisture Guru

I accidentally used this product in place of a deep conditioner on top of my rice water rinse, and the results were beautiful! I was left with unbelievable hydration and moisture that went beyond words.

The results were simply astounding!

Anyway, this product is remarkable for what it has been designed to do!

My hair result using the Soultanical Marula-Muru. Curl Cream for High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients
My hair result using the Soultanical Marula-Muru


Deionized Water (Aqua), Vegetable Glycerin, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, Olive Oil, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Agave Tequilana Leaf Extract (Agave Nectar), Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Panthenl (Pro Vitamin B5), Astrocaryum (Murumuru) Seed Butter, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Sclerocarya Bierra Seed (Marula) Oil, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Powder, Salvia officinalis (Sage) extract, Pthalate-Free Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol.

What is High Porosity Hair?

Hair porosity is often explained as the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture. However, highly porous hair implies damage has occurred since it does not repel water efficiently and absorb water proficiently. This can also be understood in terms of its ability to maintain moisture levels due to a broken cuticle layer that affects how well it retains moisture.28

Porosity can be broken down into three distinct groups: high, normal (medium), and low. The level of porosity is determined based on the surface’s pore size, number of pores, as well as its volume of pores.

Thus, having high porosity hair means it’s likely damaged due to cracks in the surface layer of your hair.29

This hair type can quickly absorb moisture due to raised or lifted cuticles; it is also why when performing the “Float Test” the individual hair strand is easier to absorb water and sink faster.30

Those with high porosity hair have larger-sized pores, numerous open pores, and a lot of space between the cortex matrix layers. Usually, chemical processes such as bleaching, coloring, and intense heating result in high-porosity hair.

Low porosity hair is not damaged and repels water very well. This type of hair usually has a higher cuticle layer and lays flat, making it harder to absorb moisture. It has fewer openings with smaller pores that make it almost impossible for the hair to absorb moisture, making hydration a tricky task.27,31

Those with medium porosity hair have cuticle openings and pores in the middle range of size, meaning that small molecules including active ingredients and water can pass through without any trouble.

Testing Porosity

Evaluating your hair’s porosity requires advanced instruments, such as the gas adsorption method.

For the most exact calculation of porosity, the gas adsorption method is unrivaled. It offers valuable information on both pore size and specific surface area.32,33

Pinpointing your hair porosity accurately can be quite a daunting task for many reasons.

1) Since everyone’s hair is unique, not all of your hair will share the same porosity levels. Typically, the newer strands closest to your scalp exhibit lower porosity while those at the ends are more porous.34

2)  Hair with high porosity is compromised – the cuticles are lifted and jagged, unable to lay flat.33 This results in a weakened state of your strands that may be difficult to recover and repair.7

3) You don’t need to repair something that isn’t broken; if you have low porosity hair, it means the cuticle layer is flattened and healthy.33 All you must do to keep your locks looking fabulous is simply condition them regularly.

4) The porosity of your hair will likely change over time due to environmental and lifestyle factors,28 so it’s essential to stay on top of its condition.

If you are curious to know what your hair porosity is, there is a relatively simple test that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Although this method isn’t foolproof and shouldn’t be relied upon for accurate results, it’s still an effective place to begin!

Here’s how to do the Float Test:29

  1. Before you begin, make sure your hair is completely cleansed of any products such as leave-in conditioner or oils. To do so, swish it around in a solution of water and detergent then rinse thoroughly and let dry before testing for desired results.
  2. If your hair is composed of treated and untreated roots of considerable length, cut it in half and test it separately for more accurate results.
  3. Drop the individual hair strand in a glass of water.
  4. If your hair floats for a long time, approximately 5 – 10 minutes or more, you likely have low porosity or low-normal porosity hair.
  5. If your hair is floating partially and sinking partially: the ends of your strands may be more porous than the root. To determine if this is true, experiment by wetting just the roots and tips separately to see which will float or sink. Conduct a separate test on both parts of your hair for an accurate result.
  6. If your hair sinks or is just under the surface after 5-10 minutes: it’s high porosity.
Image of float test.

What Is A Curl Defining Cream?

A curl cream is a rather self-explanatory product; you would anticipate that its purpose could be discerned just from the name, but it’s not only that!

It is more than just a styling product; it’s a multi-functional solution designed specifically for curly hair. It not only defines and shapes curls but also moisturizes, acts as a leave-in conditioner, and fights frizz. It even complements deep conditioners in your hair care routine.

The right curl cream enhances the natural curl pattern, leaving your hair bouncy, well-conditioned, and manageable. To achieve these results, it’s crucial to select the appropriate product and use it effectively.35

If you need a good gel for high porosity hair, read: Best Gels For High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.

Why High-Porosity Hair Needs A Curl-Defining Cream

High-porosity hair is notably dry, frizzy, and difficult to manage due to weakened cuticles. Often, this damage is caused by harsh chemical treatments, heat styling, and UV radiation. These factors lead to a loss of essential proteins and moisture, making the hair appear porous and lackluster.27,30

To restore and protect high-porosity hair, it’s essential to use specialized moisturizing and curl-defining products. These not only hydrate and revitalize the curls but also tackle issues like frizz and static, making daily grooming and styling more manageable.22

To learn more about moisturizing high porosity hair, read: How To Moisturize High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.


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I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

My Favourite Things

Great hair goes beyond using shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. Shop my favorite must-haves.

After years of requests, I’m finally sharing my go-to skincare products.

Give your space a quick refresh with these ultimate home decor ideas.

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure and make sure to pack these essential items to take with you on your journey.

Curl Care


Is High Porosity Hair Genetic?

Are you curious about whether the characteristic of high porosity hair is inherited? It’s a valid question, especially considering the link between high porosity and damaged hair. How could a

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Do it now.

- Paulo coelho